Musical Endeavors Outside the Conservatory: “Stuff I Do with My Friends [besides eat pizza]”

By Izzy Yellen

Junior Sam Pratt has many musical passions, several of which are not highlighted in the Conservatory. He decided to put them all together under one roof open to everyone. The recital—aptly named “Stuff I Do with My Friends [besides eat pizza]”—encompassed many of his favorite musical outlets.

In just a little over an hour, Pratt played in an improvisatory musical duet, a jazz combo, a collaborative improvisation with a painter and an avant-garde jazz punk trio. While this was a lot of different music and art in such a short amount of time, it was at no point overwhelming, and I thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of the performances.

The first feature was Pratt and his close friend, collaborator and junior Gabe Peterson performing an improvised piece. With Pratt on tenor sax and Peterson on baritone sax, the piece pulled influences from jazz, classical and a few other styles they both listen to. Having both been in the Improvisation Group of Lawrence University (IGLU) for several terms, they successfully weaved together a groovy and soulful piece, wrought with emotion.

Pratt’s approach to playing is very evident with his body language, closing his eyes and moving greatly to the music. This was consistent through all the acts but very explicit with the jazz combo. His combo—including juniors Matt Blair on piano, Jakob Heinemann on bass and Jeremiah Lemke-Rochon on drums—often provided a solid, but intriguing , backdrop. Pratt soared over it spiritually, playing beautiful, lyrical lines that complimented his contrasting, fiery bebop figures. Both Pratt and the rest of the combo conveyed different feelings very well, playing with intensity but playfulness that was evident in the most tender parts, but also the most chaotic.

Hippie Bullshit—a duo of junior visual artist Willa Johnson and Pratt—was on a completely different end of the spectrum. Combining his improvisation skills with Johnson’s painting, the two improvised together, feeding off each other’s creativity. This was an eye-opening experience, as it’s rare to see the time and effort gone into creating visual art and even rarer to see the aspects that directly inspire it. By the end of the piece, there was not only a complete musical thought and its recording, but also a finished painting to tie it all together visually.

The concert concluded with Sk8 City High School All Star Jazz Band, an eclectic trio consisting of Pratt on tenor sax, junior Ridley Tankersley on drums and senior Christian Carroll on guitar. The trio is known for their loud, energetic and abrasive shows at house parties, so it was quite a different feeling seeing them perform in Harper Hall. While they sounded as fantastic as they usually do, it was almost harder to enjoy it due to the setting. Alas, it ended the concert with a bang and left the audience stunned.

I could not have attended a better show to kick off my new column, the purpose of which is to review and promote non-Conservatory music. Although it was in Harper Hall and put on by a Conservatory student, all the acts were musical endeavors Pratt does in his own time, showing strong passions of his. This is the type of music I want to share with my readers. More often than not, it doesn’t get the attention it deserves to. I aim to change that.

With this concert, I was able to see what music Pratt plays purely because he wants to, not because he has to. It was exciting to see it in this setting too, as I and the rest of the audience were able to get a taste of four side-projects of his in one sitting. As always, I look forward to the next time I get to witness Sam Pratt, and his fellow musicians and artists, create something truly unique, no matter the context.

You can hear a recording of the concert at SoundCloud.